Can You Go to Jail if You Don’t Pay Child Support?

Divorced Couple Sitting on a Couch, Holding a Picture of a Broken Heart.

In Terms of Oklahoma Child Support, Divorce Separates Parents into the Obligor and Obligee.

In the state of Oklahoma, in addition to many other states around the country, you can absolutely go to jail for the failure to pay child support. Oklahoma child support represents a thorny, combative issue, however, and a sentence to jail time does not occur without due consideration. Typically, a single missed payment, or even several missed payments, will not immediately land a person in handcuffs. Instead, the threat of incarceration will serve as a deterrent against continued lapses, and encourage the child support obligor to catch up or at least resume regular payments. Child support laws also vary from state to state. Though federal statutes define the possibility of jail time for non-payment, state laws define the specific procedures for child support enforcement, along with the process to determine how much the obligor owes.

Federal agencies generally leave the prosecution of child support charges to state or local officials. Obligors delinquent in payment for over a year, or those who have fallen more than $5,000 behind, become susceptible to fines and a jail term of six months. If someone has fallen more than $10,000 behind, or has skipped payments for two years or more, they become liable for a felony and incarceration for up to two years. While the above information seems relatively cut and dry, child support and its enforcement represents a highly complex matter. To understand more accurately the consequences of non-payment of Oklahoma child support, you must familiarize yourself with the basics behind the overall process. For any questions about bail for delinquency with Oklahoma child support in , OK, call Lightning Bail Bonds at __PHONE__.

Child Support vs Custody, or the Obligor vs Obligee

The issue of child support begins when parents divorce. From this point forward, the parents can either decide who will act as the primary caregiver (the obligee for child support), and which will pay child support (the obligor). A highly contentious issue for many parents, this decision can fall to the court in the event of a dispute. Upon the definition of these roles, the state of Oklahoma employs a complicated formula to determine the amount of monthly child support payments. The formula first considers the combined incomes of both parents, and the percentage of this income that each parent supplies. In its simplest form, the formula considers these percentages as the base requirement for child support obligation.

For an example, let’s consider the situation of Bob and Nancy. Recently and somewhat amicably divorced, the former couple mutually agrees that Nancy should serve as the primary caregiver. The combined annual income of both parents is $100,000, of which Bob contributes 80 percent, or $80,000. A child support schedule will determine the total amount of money necessary for the care of children at this income level. Once that amount becomes defined, Bob will stand accountable for 80 percent of it each month. A great number of issues and factors can complicate this equation, however. For an unofficial estimate of child support amounts and obligations in Oklahoma, you can use an online calculator.

What to Do if You Fall Behind On Payments

Man Showing That He's Broke by Turning Out His Pocket.

Stay in Communication if You Cannot Afford Your Child Support.

There are many scenarios in which the obligor can fall behind on child support. An extended illness or injury can prevent them from working, for example, or they can outright lose their job. Some obligors willfully fall behind on payments, whether due to poor money management, disagreement with the arrangement, or simple spite. Once the obligee or local authorities invoke the threat of jail time, however, most obligors will readily begin to look for a solution.

Pay as Much as You Can: If an obligor falls behind on payments, or cannot afford the payments, they should nevertheless contribute as much as they can. Once the issue appears before a judge, complete and total non-payment will reflect poorly on just about anyone.

File a Motion to Modify Payments: If you lose your job, or if your income otherwise falls, do not simply stop your payments. Instead, file a motion with the court to modify your payments. This represents a straightforward and simple avenue for a struggling obligor to resume their obligation and stay on the right side of the law.

Open Communication: Every child support situation has a caseworker that oversees the payments and other particulars of shared parentage. An obligor who maintains open communication with the caseworker, and who presents a clear commitment to a resumption of solvency, can typically count on the caseworker’s positive recommendation to the judge.

What Justifies Imprisonment for Lapses in Child Support?

Now that we’ve established an outline of how child support works, and how a delinquent obligor can remain on the right side of the law, let’s consider the obverse. Enforcement of proper child support payment can occur in a few different ways, with assorted punishments that include jail time. Contempt of court represents the actual criminal charge used to enforce child support payment.

Civil Prosecution

Most of the time, the road to jail for a delinquent obligor begins with the obligee’s filing of civil charges. The obligee’s attorney will submit a request to a judge for a civil warrant to bring the obligor into custody. From there, the judge can order any number of punishments, ranging from an order to remit all back-due child support, to the addition of fines, or, unlike most civil debt collection cases, jail time. In this scenario, though jail time is possible, it typically represents a last resort. In advance of a jail sentence, judges will commonly use a variety of procedures to encourage compliance, including:

  • Garnishment of Income
  • Property Liens and Bank Account Withdrawals
  • Interception of Tax Refunds
  • Driver’s License Suspension
  • Suspension of Professional or Recreational Licenses
  • Passport Suspension

Criminal Prosecution

Once payments become seriously delinquent to the standards described in our opening paragraphs, state or federal officials will step in and begin their own criminal case against the obligor. The possibility for jail time becomes more acute in this scenario, thanks to the passage of the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act in 1996. This act outlines strict penalties for delinquent obligors who fall more than $5,000 behind. Once the number hits $10,000, the obligor risks felony charges and two years in jail.

Child Support FAQ

  • Man Signing a Document While a Woman Points.

    A Waiver Agreement Between the Former Couple Is the Only Way Out of Child Support Debt.

    What Is a Cash Bond for Child Support?

    • A cash bond for child support means that the detained obligor must themselves pay the full bail amount, in cash, to escape pre-trial detention for delinquent child support payments. In the event of a cash bond, you can always file an appeal.
  • How Long Do You Go to Jail for Not Paying Oklahoma Child Support?
    • If charged with a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is six months. For a felony, it becomes two years.
  • Is Unpaid Child Support a Felony?
    • In certain cases, yes. Unpaid child support becomes a felony if the delinquent amount exceeds $10,000, or if the previous payment occurred more than two years prior.
  • Can Child Support Debt Be Forgiven?
    • In terms of bankruptcy, no.
  • Can Child Support Be Waived?
    • Yes, though it depends on the goodwill of the obligee. If child support payments have become severely delinquent, the parents can, with the approval of the court, waive some or all of the arrears. Alternately, the parents and court can agree on a settlement plan.

Bail for Oklahoma Child Support Arrest

If you or a loved one have found themselves on the receiving end of a child support warrant, you will naturally want jail release as quickly as possible. When it comes to bail bonds for Oklahoma child support in , OK, trust the experts at Lightning Bail Bonds. Once judges or bail schedules establish the amount for Oklahoma child support bail bonds, we will act quickly to restore the freedom of our clients. To learn more, ask questions, or request our help, call __PHONE__ anytime.